A Taoyuan man who called 119 in February when drunk because he believed there was a fire on the first floor when he returned home has been fined NT$4000 (US$131) after emergency services rushed to the scene to find that everything was fine. The man admitted to placing the false report. This is the first case in Taoyuan in which a resident has been fined for making a false report to an emergency number, UDN reported.
The man had reportedly been drinking at home and dialed 119 at 5 pm to report the fire. Emergency personnel noted that there was no sign of fire at the residence when they arrived. After an investigation, authorities said the false report was deliberate and referred the case to the court, which issued the fine.
In another case in Zhongli in February, a man called 110 a total of 103 times in six hours, according to a related UDN report. Police warned the caller 48 times to not misuse the emergency number. The man admitted to being drunk and police referred the case to the court, which fined him NT$6000.
Both cases highlight a problem with the misuse of emergency services in Taiwan. Authorities estimate that half of all emergency calls to 110 and 119 are false reports. The cases have, until recently, been handled without any punishment to the caller. Authorities are now enforcing fines for false reports according to the Social Order Maintenance Act (社會秩序維護).
According to statistics from the Taoyuan Fire Department and Police Department, there were 250,537 and 688,890 calls made to their respective emergency numbers last year, with 145,678 and 379,074 calls being false reports or harassment of operators. The fire department said it only had seven cases of false emergency calls in 2015.
The Taoyuan City Fire Department Disaster Relief Command Center has only 60 lines and is staffed by up to 26 operators during peak hours.
Authorities noted that about 40% of calls emergency services receive are drunken calls, hang-ups or silence, and prank calls. They even receive calls of people claiming that there are ghosts in their homes or that they are lonely.
Following revisions to the Social Order Maintenance Act in June 2016, those making false reports or harassing operators face arrest and fines. In the case of a false report of a fire, the fines range from NT$3000 to NT$15,000. However, as false reports may be difficult to prove, the Taoyuan Fire Department has taken a softer approach to the matter and will evaluate each case before issuing a fine.
Authorities remind the public that unnecessary calls to emergency numbers can inhibit police and fire fighters from performing their jobs efficiently.